Editors' Note: This post is part of a series offering ways to keep the joy of Easter alive for the entire fifty days of the season. Read Part 1: Music here.
As my students walked into the classroom this morning, I greeted them with an energetic “Happy Easter!” One of my students quickly turned and responded, “Why are you saying that? Easter was on Sunday.” As we chatted about it further, I learned that the students had just discussed in their religion class that Easter lasts for 50 days until the celebration of Pentecost. They talked with me about Jesus’ Resurrection, his appearances to the disciples, his Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit. They knew the facts, but did not recognize that we were truly still celebrating Easter.
Like the concepts in every class and at every age, the truth takes a little bit longer to settle in and take root than the facts do. So how can we help our students to realize that Easter is full season of joyful celebration in the rhythm of the liturgical year?
1) Enter into the Easter prayer of the Church.
In my classroom, we’ve been saying the Angelus immediately after lunch. During the Easter season, we will instead pray the Regina Caeli. We’ll talk about the joy that we are invited to proclaim with the rest of the Church—a joy that celebrates not only a Resurrection that happened long ago, but the hope and life that will forever exist because of it.
2) Use liturgical colors.
If you have a prayer area in the room, make some small changes to reflect the liturgical season of the Church. Draw the students’ attention to these changes to help them recognize the ways that we signify and celebrate different liturgical seasons of the Church. You could even incorporate this discussion into a literature discussion by relating it to the symbolism used in novels and short stories.
3) Celebrate life.
Whether you are teaching a biology unit on plant growth, a history unit on the birth of new civilizations or cultural traditions, or reading a novel in literature, discuss the new life that surrounds us and how this relates to our lives as Christians. In younger classrooms, the change of seasons from winter to spring can be related to a discussion of the new life of the Resurrection. In a biology classroom, an analysis-level question could encourage students to think about what makes a plant a living organism and explain why Churches are decorated with plants during the Easter season.
4) Reflect and imagine.
Encourage your students to imagine themselves in the Resurrection story. What would they be feeling if they were the one to discover the empty tomb? What questions would they have for Jesus when he entered the Upper Room? What would they want to tell Jesus? This could be part of a classroom discussion or as a creative writing prompt in a language arts classroom.
5) Incorporate artwork.
I continue to be surprised by the details in a text that my students will notice that I have previously overlooked or connections that they will make that I have not thought of. I recently observed a teacher display a piece of artwork of the Ascension and ask a group of elementary students what they saw. I was amazed by the details that they noticed and the questions that the art inspired. Easter is a great time to incorporate artwork as a writing prompt to use as either an assessment or writing practice.
However we choose to celebrate Easter this year in our classrooms, the key idea is to recognize that it is a celebration that is not meant to be confined to Easter day or Sunday Mass or religion class. This celebration is one that should give us new hope and make us a people—and a classroom community—that proclaims the love and life that is celebrated throughout this Easter season.
Featured Photo: Lawrence Lew, OP; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.